Walther on St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Were there no gospel-believing Christians under medieval Catholicism? Do conservative Lutherans think they alone are right with God? Well, consider what Missouri Synod founder C. F. W. Walther said about St. Bernard of Clairvaux (as quoted by Paul McCain at Cyberbrethren:

“St. Bernard, the famous abbot of Clairvaux, who died in 1153, is a noteworthy example how the most pious and the best of those in the papacy, when they came into great trials, rejected all of their trust in their own human holiness, in their own works and service, and in the intercession of the saints in heaven, and took sole comfort in the all sufficient service of JESUS Christ for their salvation. Even though in his life Bernard had most strictly pursued holiness and had ascribed such a high value to his position as a monk that he considered it as if it were another baptism (Apolog. Ad Builielm. Abb.), he nevertheless confessed when he suddenly cried out for his salvation because of a severe trial: “I confess that I am not worthy of myself nor can I receive heaven through my own service. But my LORD JESUS Christ has a double right to heaven; first because he is by nature its heir, and then because he has earned it through his meritorious suffering. That first right he has for himself, the second he gives me. Through this gift heaven is mine by rights, so I cannot be lost.”

(Bernard’s commemoration day was yesterday.)

Why aren’t ultrasounds common ground in the abortion debate?

An Oklahoma court has thrown out a state law requiring women to see the ultrasound picture of their babies before getting an abortion. Pro-choicers and pro-lifers agree that ultrasounds result in fewer abortions, so the former decry the practice while the latter are all for it. But First Things blogger Keith Pavlischek raises the question: Aren’t the pro-choicers saying they want to reduce the number of abortions? Wouldn’t ultrasounds be part of the “common ground” between the two sides that President Obama and moderate evangelicals claim to be looking for?

Both the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute and the pro-life Focus on the Family agree that the widespread use of ultrasounds for women contemplating abortions will reduce the number of abortions. The use of ultrasounds in pregnancy counseling, in other words, is a proven “abortion reduction strategy.”

The most charitably disposed might think that this is common ground that pro-life and pro-choice Americans have been looking for. It is something we can come together on. After all, isn’t that what Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Joel Hunter, David Gushee and the rest of President Obama’s ostensibly pro-life moderate and progressive Evangelical supporters been trying to sell us this past year or so.

So why aren’t pro-choicers and pro-lifers collaborating on required ultrasound laws?

The British health care system

Both advocates and critics of a government-run “single payer” system look to the example of Great Britain’s nationalized health care. Here British journalist Mike McNally offers a revealingly balanced view:

The British system is not nearly as bad as has been suggested by opponents of ObamaCare. But it’s fair to say that if Britain were setting up a health care system from scratch today, it wouldn’t bear much resemblance to the NHS. The service was established more than 60 years ago in a country battered by war and when the ability of the government to run such enterprises was unquestioned. Back then it did its job of providing basic health care for all admirably. But with people living longer, medical advances producing new and more expensive treatments, and the bureaucracy growing increasingly byzantine, the NHS has become a black hole sucking in ever-more public money. Labour has more than doubled spending on the NHS since coming to power in 1997 with little to show for it, and the service is projected to face massive funding shortfalls in the next few years.

Yet to talk of reforming the service is political suicide. The NHS employs around 1.3 million people — it’s thought to be the world’s third-largest employer after the Chinese military and India’s railway service — and remains broadly popular with the public despite a steady flow of horror stories (it’s just been revealed, for example, that more than 30,000 people have died in the past five years from infections picked up in NHS hospitals). Assuming the Conservatives win the next election, it’s unlikely Cameron will have the courage to propose significant reforms in a first term.

The simple fact is that while neither system is as terrible as their detractors claim, both have undeniable flaws. And while we can trade facts, figures, and anecdotes all day, a couple of things are clear. The first is that the poor enjoy a generally better standard of care in the UK than in the U.S. The second is that Americans with decent insurance enjoy a better standard of care than most Brits — survival rates for all the major cancers are considerably better than in the UK, and screening and treatment for heart disease and other chronic conditions is more widely available.

Free Enterprise Health Care Reforms

Here are some ideas for health care reform from John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods markets:

• Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees’ Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

• Equalize the tax laws so that that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

• Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

• Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

What would be wrong with these?

I’m especially intrigued with his first proposal, combining cheaper high-deductible insurance with medical savings accounts–with a substantial amount contributed by the employer that would pay the deductible but that could accumulate if it isn’t used.

UPDATE: Many liberals are furious that Mr. Mackey has spoken his mind on this issue. They have been shopping at Whole Foods, feeling good about themselves for their environmentalism, unaware that Mr. Mackey is a crunchy-libertarian. For his advocacy of free market health care reform, liberals are organizing a boycott. Under that mindset, dissent is not allowed.

Favre does it again

Former Packer quarterback Brett Favre for the second time has come out of retirement, this three weeks after saying he wouldn’t, and has signed with the Packer arch-rivals, the Minnesota Vikings! He is dead to me now.

The $15 million man

The deadline was Monday at midnight. At 11:58 and 43 seconds, Stephen Strasburg–who is supposedly the best pitching prospect in a generation–agreed to sign with the Washington Nationals. The last place team signed the number one draft pick for $15.1 million for four years, plus incentives, which was half again as much as the previously biggest contract for a draftee. I blogged about Strasburg’s pitching prowess earlier.

Nationals fans now have something to feel good about and someone to get their hopes up. Do you think this is a good way to spend that kind of money?